4 Ways To Handle Passive Perception


There has been some talk about the role of Passive Perception in D&D 5e recently. As with all things D&D, there are lots of opinions and preferences based on personal style and interpretation. In addition to chiming in with my thoughts, I wanted to collect some of the different ways I’ve seen Passive Perception handled, and talk about the effects of using these methods.

Before we start, let’s talk about what Passive Perception is.

Sorry, the DC to spot the trap was 82.

Sorry, the DC to spot the trap was 82.

Passive checks in D&D 5e are a special type of ability check that doesn’t require a roll. It can represent the average result of taking your time on a task (taking 10/20 from earlier editions), or when the GM wants to determine success/failure without having someone roll dice.

Passive Perception is specifically mentioned in regards to hiding, which is an action you can take. It determines if you notice a creature attempting to hide.

Aside from the general rules for passive checks and the specific Passive Perception rules with hiding, there’s not a lot of guidance on how to use it, which can be both a good and bad thing. Passive Perception can speed up certain elements of play, but can also make knowing what information to share with a player difficult.

Here are 4 ways to use Passive Perception, and how they affect your game.


1.       Stealth Only

13th Age's Prince of Shadows

13th Age's Prince of Shadows

Passive Perception only happens specifically with noticing hidden creatures, it has no effect or use on hidden objects. In order to find a trap, you need to make active checks and rolls. If you don’t actively look for a trap, you won’t find it.

The benefits of this method are tied to the benefits of Passive Perception in general. You don’t need to make extra dice rolls for stealth, and you don’t have to unintentionally put a player on edge by asking them to make a Perception check out of the blue.

This can initially make detecting traps harder, as a player has to be on guard and actively look for something. However, this can slow down the game if the players become worried about the presence of traps. If they need to take action to look for traps, you might run into a situation where they declare they’re looking for traps in every room and encounter.

2.       Clues

dnd clue.jpg

Clue based Passive Perception turns finding traps and hidden objects into a bit of a skill challenge. Your Passive Perception will tell you a simple fact, or give a simple clue to the true nature of whatever is nearby. For example, a long hallway is filled with flame traps. Your passive perception might tell you that there are scorch marks on the floor. From that point on, you are now active, and are trying to solve it with active rolls and role playing.

This method can get rid of the ‘surprise’ factor of traps, as many Passive Perception scores are high enough to notice something. However, disabling or overcoming traps feels better to players than being surprised by one.

A good way to handle clues from Passive Perception is to roll them into the description of a room or hallway. Mention the long hallway’s stonework, the moss growing on it, and the scorch marks all at the same time. This can help conceal the fact that they were specifically given a clue due to their Passive Perception, and relies on natural response and problem-solving to proceed.

3.       Sherlock Sense

It's elementary...

It's elementary...

This is the most powerful way to handle Passive Perception for a player. Your Passive Perception gives you the most amount of information possible, usually specifying where the trap trigger/pressure plate is. In essence, you are telling your players WHAT the problem is and WHERE the solution is.

With Sherlock sense, most traps are handled quickly and easily. It might still require an ability check to disable or bypass the trap, but the process is streamlined.

Traps are rarely a threat with this mode, unless the DC to spot it is higher than a player’s Passive Perception. Players do not have to worry about searching for traps as much, and might see them as a minor hindrance. This can speed up the exploration phase of the game, giving more time to other elements.

4.       Minimum Roll

How did I NOT see the zombie T-Rex?

How did I NOT see the zombie T-Rex?

This isn’t part of the Rules As Written (RAW), but I’ve seen some discussion about using Passive Perception as a minimum for your Perception. If you would roll lower than your Passive Perception, you use it instead.

Keep in mind, this isn’t how Passive Perception was meant to be used. It also steps on the toes of a high level rogue ability, Reliable Talent.

I wouldn’t recommend using this option. I’ve seen it come up when trying to explain how you can achieve a worse result than if you weren’t actively trying.

It’s important to remember that D&D and its mechanics aren’t trying to mirror or mimic reality. Your Passive Perception isn’t the worst that you can do at the task. It’s a useful mechanic for abstracting and getting rid of extra dice rolls at the table.

You're having fun wrong!

You're having fun wrong!

There are certainly many other ways that you can handle Passive Perception. Remember, rule 0 is having fun, and whatever your table likes best is the right answer. Even if it’s #4.


Do you have another method for handling Passive Perception that doesn’t fall into one of these categories? Let me know!

Fully Funded: Archive of Magic Items!

I'm happy to announce that the Archive of Magic Items has been fully funded!


We have 4 days left to hit our first stretch goal ($5,000). It's going to be close, but it's still a possibility.

I've been posting previews from Archive, here are some fun ones to take a look at.



There are 4 days left, so if you've been thinking about jumping in on this book, now is the time!

After the Kickstarter wraps up, there will be more regularly scheduled posts from Pirate Gonzalez Games!


Pokemon D&D 5e: Johto Pokedex

Johto Pokedex


The Johto pokedex for D&D 5e is now here!

I hope you enjoy the all of the pokemon from the Gold and Silver games, which were my favorite!

I applied more of my monster creation knowledge to these pokemon, but beware! They haven't been tested in the field yet. There may be some unintentional imbalances, so just look them over before you use them in your 5th edition D&D game. I also tried to cover a wide variety of CRs for the pokemon, so don't expect them to be as strong or weak as they were in the games!

I also made these stat blocks a different way than the Kanto pokedex, so if you see something wrong, let me know and I can easily fix it! You can give me a shout on twitter @pirategonzalez.

Thanks for checking the pokemon out! If you enjoyed this, please consider checking out my Kickstarter for 5e, the Archive of Magic Items! It's a collection of 350+ unique, interesting items for your 5e game.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

(You can download a consolidated PDF of the pokedex here.)

Kickstarter is Live: The Archive of Magic Items!

It's finally here! The project I've been working on for literally years, the Archive of Magic Items!

I've put together a book of over 350 unique, interesting magic items for D&D 5e (it's closer to 400, but I'm keeping it conservative).

I've also included some new features in the book, such as:

  • Unique ways to attune to items
  • Suggestions for using an item at a higher or lower level
  • Magitech!

Check it out! There's a ton of really cool stuff in here, and I'll be releasing previews throughout the month. Tell your friends about it!

But really, please tell them. I need your help with the word of mouth!

Check out the Kickstarter here, and stay tuned for more updates!


Tell me about your favorite magic items that aren't in 5e!

Domain of Smash Bros


Did you hear the good news? Smash Bros is coming to the Nintendo Switch, and I can't wait to play it.

The announcement trailer was surprisingly intense. The squid kids from Splatoon find themselves in a dark landscape illuminated only by the fiery light of the Smash Bros symbol, and the silhouettes of the fighters.

The Smash Bros symbol had an almost supernatural feel to it. It seemed like a holy symbol of sorts.

The idea of a supernatural being that selects the best fighters across the universe fits right into D&D. I created a brand new domain for Clerics, the Domain of Smash Battles, with that in mind. Check it out!

Homebrewery Link: https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/HyWF3UH4tz

Domain of Smash Battles-page-001.jpg



Johto Pokedex 5E

Johto Pokedex


The Johto pokedex for 5E will be coming soon!

Ages ago I created the Kanto pokedex, a book containing the stats of the original 151 pokemon for D&D 5e.

After the success of the Kanto pokedex, I’d received inquiries about doing a johto pokedex. At the time, I wasn’t able to do a new pokedex. The time commitment was too large, and I wanted to work on some other projects first (cough cough, Archive of Magic Items).

Well, it has now been long enough, and the Johto pokedex is almost ready to debut!

I’m excited about this version, because I’ve learned a lot about monster creation since the original Kanto pokedex. Many of the pokemon I stated were very powerful or imbalanced. I’ve applied what I’ve learned since then, and you should see a more balanced array of pokemon. Don’t get me wrong, there are still going to be some outliers, but since I’m not going to playtest each pokemon, we’ll have to live with that. Feel free to let me know if you see anything significant though!

Here are some previews from the pokedex! If you’re interested in when the full pokedex releases, follow me for updates!

Click here if you want to see the Kanto pokedex.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

My Hero Academia- Masks

Plus Extra!

Plus Extra!

My Hero Academia is an excellent anime, featuring a group of classmates going to the number 1 high school for aspiring super heroes. An ensemble of interesting characters makes it seem like a living, breathing world.

In this setting, the majority of people are born with “quirks”, or super powers. Some are minor mutations, and others are big, flashy and powerful. Because of this change, being a professional super hero is a valid career, with a salary and everything.

Young kids with quirks that want to be superheroes apply to U.A, the number one high school for super heroes. Aside from their normal classes, they also receive training on using and developing their quirks, and becoming stellar super heroes.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Masks Role Playing Game lately, and the show captures a lot of the important elements from the game. Big emotions, dramatic scenes, and developing powers are all important in Masks, and the show has them in spades.

I’ve listed some of the main characters from My Hero Academia, and assigned them a corresponding playbook in Masks. If you want to play a character from My Hero Academia, this might help you get the right feel!


Izuku Midoriya- Midoriya is the main character of the show, and fits within a few possible playbooks. The Legacy is the immediate fit, as Midoriya literally has All Might’s legacy. The Doomed could also work, if you consider All Might’s impending death and the overall villain of the story as the possible ‘Doom’. The Protégé models Midoriya’s leadership and analytical skills, and keeps All Might directly connected to the playbook.


Katsuki Bakugo. He’s The Bull, absolutely. Bakugo’s personality aligns perfectly with the Bull; you even get to pick a rival!


Ochako Uraraka- The Nova is the closest fit, especially since it has gravity control. Her quirk is more support focused, so you can pick moves and abilities that allow you to support others and manipulate the environment.


Tenya Iida- The Legacy. His family are superheroes, and he is following in their footsteps. Give him a super speed power and you're good to go.


Shoto Todoroki- The Nova. His powers are big, flashy, and easy to lose control. Elemental control is also one of the standard options with the Nova as well.


Yuga Aoyama- The Star. Rather, he wants to be The Star.


Tsuyu Asui- This one is tough. Asui is a strong, stable influence. She’s almost handled better as an NPC, as she seems unlikely to get into arguments or fights like other characters. She could be a modified Janus or The Joined.


Momo Yaoyorozu- Her family is wealthy, so the Protégé would be a good fit. Because all of the kids in the anime have powers, The Beacon will almost never be used. However, because she creates mundane objects, an argument for the Beacon can be made.


Mezo Shoji- The Transformed. His body is obviously weird, and his associated powers align with the Transformed.


Eijiro Kirishima- He’s a good candidate for the Bull. He tries to overcome obstacles with brute force.


Mina Ashido- The Outsider! I know she’s not really an alien, but she looks just like the default picture. She even references how alien she looks!


Toru Hagakure- Because her only quirk is invisibility, the closest I can think of is the Beacon.


Kyoka Jiro- Another hard one, possibly handled better as a NPC or support. Perhaps the Janus?


Minoru Mineta- I hate him. The Delinquent? I’m not going to spend more time on this creep.


Denki Kaminari- The Nova, because his powers are elemental in nature and have a very bad drawback.


Fumikage Tokoyami- I want to go with the Doomed, but I’m not sure what his ‘Doom’ would be. Overall, the Doomed is the gloomiest of the playbooks, and he seems like the gloomiest person! But, somehow in a cool way.


Mashirao Ojiro- The Beacon might be a good fit here. His quirk is a tail, but it’s not a power in and of itself, so the Beacon could still work.


Hanta Sero- Yikes, this one is hard. His tape is definitely a power, but could be seen as a type of equipment, so the Beacon might apply. Additionally, the Janus has some similar powers.


Koji Koda- We don’t know much about Koda, so it’s hard to pick a playbook for him.


Rikido Sato- The Bull would fit his style, especially with the declining brain function.


Masks Beacon Playbook- Character Drives


Masks is a great game, and one of the playbooks, the Beacon, has one of the best design features for a character that I have ever seen.

For those that don’t know, the Beacon is the normal person on the team. They don’t have superpowers. They might have gadgets and skills, but they’re just a normal person trying to do good in a team of super powered friends.


The Beacon has a feature called Drives. The Beacon has a list of tasks or goals to accomplish. Because Masks is a teenage superhero game, these include things like “get a new hero name”, “punch someone you probably shouldn’t”, and “pull off a ridiculous stunt”.

Each session, the Beacon chooses four drives to work on. If they accomplish it, they get to mark it off and get a reward. Once a drive has been marked off, it’s permanently done. If you mark off all four in a session, you pick four more.

The beauty of this feature is that drives give you things to strive for. They’re almost a kind of role playing prompt. Regardless of whatever mission or story you’re participating in, drives are the motivations for your character.

With drives, you are never caught at a time where you don’t know what to do. If there is nothing else happening in the game, you can push to complete one of your drives.

The limit of four drives at a time is a great decision. It gives focus to your drives and goals. Having a list of 20 drives that you could accomplish would be overwhelming and feel chaotic. Instead, the act of picking four means that you are aware of what you want to do, and can do it with a focused approach.

The last beauty of drives is specific to Masks. In the game, if you are able to complete all of the drives, you have a choice to make. You either pick a new playbook and use that going forward, retire from the superhero life, or become a paragon of the city.

This highlights what Drives are to a Beacon. They’re a measure of accomplishment. A Beacon is defined by having drives that they want to achieve. Once they’re all done, they have nothing else they need to do in the game. If they want to keep playing with their team, they have to pick a new playbook, because they’re no longer driven by their drives; they’re a different type of person. If they retire, it’s because they’ve accomplished everything they want to from the superhero lifestyle. If they want to keep going down the same path, then they become a paragon of the city, an NPC.

Drives are an amazing feature that should be included in as many games as possible. I love this mechanic, and will be looking for ways to implement it into other systems.

What is Masks? An awesome game.

What is Masks? An awesome game.

Have you played a Masks game? If so, what do you think about the Beacon’s drives? Let me know!

Masks Recap: Improvised Time Travel


Masks is a wonderful game, capturing the essence and joy of running a drama filled, teenage superhero game. A staple of super hero stories is time travel, which is also one of the most complicated stories you can tackle.

In my Monday Masks game, we’ve had a time travel thread going for the last few weeks. Friction, the Janus kinetic controller, has been replaced by her future self, although none of her teammates know. This week, we finally follow the story of the present-day friction exploring the future.

When we switched future and present Friction, her player came up with a few facts about the future on her own.

1.      The death of her younger brother, Jack, was the perceived turning point in the timeline for when it became a bleak future.

2.      The Calvary, the international group of superheroes, split up into individual cells. Some are good, some are bad.

3.      Firefly, the Outsider alien princess, was usurped by a sibling and is in hiding on Earth.

4.      Jishaku, the Reformed electromagnetic controller, is in control of a Calvary cell, and it is unknown whether she is good or bad.

5.      Friction is the leader of a vigilante group, fighting against both the good and bad.

6.      Finally, the bleakest fact: Nexus, the Transformed nanite lifeform, has been cut into pieces to be incorporated into other people. Integrating Nexus body parts grants incredible power, so organizations hunt down body parts and steal them from each other.

Overall, the future Halcyon city has a very Sin City feel, but with a higher level of technology.

A little bit of this, a little bit of Batman Beyond.

A little bit of this, a little bit of Batman Beyond.

The facts we have are very invocative, but leave a lot open. For our session, we decided to dive into this further, and did it completely improvised.

The players of Firefly, Jishaku, and Nexus were allowed complete freedom to decide facts and features of the future, and push the story as they liked. My job was to introduce Friction to the future, and set her on the path to meeting her teammates.

I introduced a few features to the future: Hoverbikes, futuristic police blimps, unregistered metahumans, and the Manhunters.

Probably not these Manhunters. Probably.

Probably not these Manhunters. Probably.

Friction met with her vigilante group, and went to meet Jason Bellamy, the best friend of Nexus.

Nexus’ player was controlling Jason, as Nexus was unable to be played, being in many pieces and all. Jason fleshed out some information on what happened to Nexus, and put them on the path to meeting Jishaku.

The player of Jishaku fleshed out the role of the Calvary cells. They have a warlord feeling to them; they’re officially a part of the government, but can do whatever they want. The group decides to try and find a way to send a message back in time, and change the future. They go to look for Firefly and reunite the group.

The player of Firefly decided that after being usurped by a sibling, she made herself completely undetectable. She cut her psychic powers off, hid all of her alien tech, and tried living as a completely normal, boring person.

A fate worse than death, being boring- (teenagers everywhere)

A fate worse than death, being boring- (teenagers everywhere)

The group restored Firefly’s memories, and went about finding a way to either send a message back, or even better, send Friction back to her normal time. Eventually, they sent Friction back to her timeline, where she can save her friends from their current predicament.

Throughout the whole story, Friction acted as a beacon of hope in a dark, bleak future. The players of the other characters did an amazing job at portraying a dark future, and because they were the ones deciding facts about it, they added things that were personal that I would have missed. Friction found a group of people who had grown apart, and brought them back together again. She brought the future the one thing it needed most- hope.



Time travel stories are complicated, confusing, and full of paradoxes. For a tabletop game, you don’t need to worry about keeping an internal consistency the entire time. You’re creating the game as you go, so you can always add things later. Go crazy. Let your players come up with facts and features about the future. It’s their characters, so it’s a great opportunity to preview what their plans are for their character, or delve into the mindset of them.

Have you ever run a time traveling adventure or story? Let me know how it went!